Washington Citing privacy and precedent, the Bush administration indicated Sunday it does not intend to release all memos and other documents written by Supreme Court nominee John Roberts when he worked for two presidents.
The leading Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will conduct hearings on Roberts' nomination, disputed the assertion that privacy was at stake and called such a position a "red herring."
Roberts worked in the Reagan White House counsel's office from 1982-1986. He also was principal deputy solicitor general in the administration of the first President Bush.
Fred D. Thompson, the former Tennessee senator who is guiding Roberts through the nomination process, said material that would come under attorney-client privilege would be withheld. He contended that previous administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have followed that principle.
"We hope we don't get into a situation where documents are asked for that folks know will not be forthcoming and we get all hung up on that," Thompson told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales appeared more open to considering such requests, but cited concerns about "very sensitive, very deliberative information."
"Generally, that's not something that the administration or any White House would be inclined to share because it is so sensitive and does, in my judgment, does chill communications between line attorneys and their superiors within the Department of Justice," Gonzales said on "Fox News Sunday."
The committee has yet to ask for such material.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said other nominees, including Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, have provided items written in confidence.
"It's a total red herring to say, 'Oh, we can't show this,"' Leahy told ABC's "This Week."
"And of course there is no lawyer-client privilege," he said. "Those working in the solicitor general's office are not working for the president. They're working for you and me and all the American people."